Next Of Kin

Entry by: tinyfeet&bluebirds

18th September 2015
Ramblings on kinship

A phone rings harshly in the dark night, shrill notes, discordant, cut through the soft grey blanket of sleep. The kind of call no one wants to get. The call that comes with no warning like a swift punch to the solar plexus because you are the next in line, the closest link, the blood coming immediately after. Next of kin.

It was just an ordinary day except I'd stayed home from school with a sore throat. An ordinary day until the phone rang. I dressed myself swiftly after I’d hung up. Although he hadn't said the words - they weren't mine to receive - I just knew somehow, I knew Granny was gone. Downstairs I put the kettle on already sure my mother would be walking through the door in the next five minutes brought swiftly home from her day job, her life suddenly pulled out from normal into that space in between where the planet still keeps turning but your steps are out of time, your wheels blocked no longer revolving. I wondered if the nameless man who’d failed to reach her here had begun as they always did in films, 'I'm sorry to have to inform you but…'

I read the news today and turning to the obituaries saw your name. That name I thought I'd successfully erased from existence. I felt something like liquid lead sink from my stomach down to my feet as the paper slipped from my hands and slid soundlessly to the floor. … ‘Would you do something for me?’ you asked, and I smiled, already expecting some kind of trick. You blushed, so unlike you so I raised an eyebrow. You were nervous, you spoke too fast.
It wasn't romantic like a marriage proposal but I knew what you meant, I knew what you were saying in between the words that came out of your mouth, I knew this was as close as you’d get to saying you needed me. ‘Will you be my next of kin? It’s no big deal, I have to put one down for my passport application.’ It was no big deal. For four years I was the closest thing, the voice on the end of the line for the call that never came. And then I wasn't any more and your suitcase in the hallway and the guilty look on your face said I never had been really. And now I'm just a stranger knocking over her orange juice as she reads about death in the newspaper.

Kin. It never meant much before you came. I didn't understand how you could feel so tied, tied and bound to someone else, so entirely responsible for them that I would lie in silence as you lay sleeping listening for the sound of your heart beating under your rib cage, watching for the tell-tale breath from between your lips. Kijn, give birth to, of my own flesh and blood, nearest and dearest. How accurately the dictionary’s descriptions described you. Closest living being to me. And how I ached for years after at the thought that anyone might ever have to tell me you were dead.

I would not want to be the one they would tell first of my death. To be the one who waking in the night to the shrill ring of an unwelcome call stumbles sleepily into the terrible emptiness of everyday tragedy. What a burden. To be the one they tell when hope is gone. To be the one who must say stop, enough is enough, this is not what she wanted if one day I cannot breathe for myself. To have to stand in my place when my marbles drop to the floor and run to hide in the nooks and crannies of my mind and take my decisions in my place. What a burden to bear. What a terrible burden to bear.